Vitamin D Supplements Can Benefit Puget Sound Children

Vitamin D Supplements Can Benefit Puget Sound Children

Is your child getting enough liquid sunshine?

The Pacific Northwest is famous for many things. Sunshine, however, is not one of them. My family recently relocated to the area, and I knew the local weather would affect our daily activities. I also knew the weather could affect our health. Along with new rain boots and umbrellas, I made sure my family started vitamin D supplements.

Not just for bones
Vitamin D, along with calcium, is well-known for playing a critical role in building strong bones. Without enough vitamin D, bones will be weak and soft, a disease called rickets. There is now evidence that vitamin D may be important in the health of the immune and cardiovascular systems. Providing your child with correct amounts of vitamin D could also be important in the prevention of heart disease, arthritis, diabetes, lupus and some kinds of cancer. 

Milk is not enough
Our skin makes vitamin D when exposed to the sun. With an average of only 65 sunny days per year in Federal Way and the South Sound, where I practice, the sun is not a dependable source of vitamin D for residents. Additionally, clothing and the use of sunscreen interfere with the process. Vitamin D can be found naturally in only a few foods, such as fatty fish (salmon, mackerel, sardines and tuna), egg yolk and beef liver. Milk, yogurt, cereal and orange juice often have vitamin D added to them. Even with fortification, however, it is very difficult to get enough of this essential vitamin from diet alone.

Let’s talk numbers
An infant, child or adolescent generally requires about 400 international units (IU) of vitamin D each day. One cup of milk provides 100 IU of vitamin D, which means a child would need to drink a whopping 32 ounces of vitamin D-fortified milk each day to get the daily recommended dose. Most children can’t drink this amount, nor do many of them have a taste for sardines or beef liver. The American Academy of Pediatrics therefore recommends that 400 IU of vitamin D supplementation be provided daily starting soon after birth. 

Liquid sunshine
Vitamin D supplements come in many forms and can be found at your local grocery store, pharmacy or vitamin supply store. For infants and children under the age of 3, vitamin drops are used. Chewable vitamins are generally given to children over the age of 3. Most multivitamins for children include the recommended daily dose.

As long as my children call the Pacific Northwest home, I’ll make sure they get 400 IU of the sunshine vitamin every day. Speak to your pediatrician if you have questions about vitamin D supplementation for your child.


Lauren Athay MD Pediatrician Virginia Mason Federal WayPediatrician Lauren Athay, MD, is with Virginia Mason Pediatrics in Federal Way. (253) 874-1616.


  1. Excellent information about vitamin d and supplementation. Living in the northeast during winter it becomes apparent that everyone gets a bit of a deficiency during that time of year. Does vitamin D need to be taken with anything to aid in absorption?

  2. Lauren Athay says:

    Vitamin D does not need to be taken with anything in order to aid in absorption. It does help your body absorb calcium and so calcium supplements often include Vitamin D. There are some medications that should not be taken along with Vitamin D but they are not medications common to the pediatric population. If you are on prescription medications, it is always a good idea to check with your doctor or pharmacist before starting any vitamin supplement.

  3. Sandra Farshaw says:

    I want to try something, if it is alright to let my children take some vitamin d supplement together with an arginine from since he is experiencing a weak blood flow and immune support aside from a vitamin c and zinc.

  4. Heather Neal says:

    I disagree with the recommendations. Adults and children on 1000 IU/day consistently come up deficient of Vitamin D per lab work. I recommend to my patients 2000 IU for kids, 4000 IU for adults, break during the summertime if you love to spend time outside. Anything under 1000 IU is simply not enough for us up here. Don’t even check their EPA/DHA levels. It only gets worse!

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